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2003 Land Rover Freelander

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2003 Land Rover Freelander
Available in 4 styles:  2003 Land Rover Freelander 2dr AWD shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

17 city / 20 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3
2003 Land Rover Freelander 3.2 12
$ 2,369-8,017
May 16, 2003

What a funny-looking motor vehicle!

I must confess, that was my first thought upon seeing the 2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3.

I thought maybe the bright-yellow color on the tested model had something to do with it, but upon further review, no, it just looked different -- kind of what you would expect the child of a Jeep Wrangler and a Toyota RAV4 to look like if such a thing were allowed by nature.

It turns out, however, that the SE3's looks have everything to do with its function. And it functioned pretty well for the week I had it.

If you like the outdoors and occasionally like to get far away from the paved roadways, you'll probably like the SE3. The tested model had the removable rear hardtop cover, which lets the sun shine in on prospective passengers or loads of tall cargo. Twin sunroof panels are likewise removable. Land Rover was kind enough to provide on-board storage for the removable parts.

For those who meander way, way off-road, Land Rover incorporated Hill Descent Control to act in place of low-range gearing to assist motorists down steep slopes. HDC triggers anti-lock braking sensors to rapidly pulse the brakes and keep the vehicle speed at less than 6 miles per hour.

The SE3's off-road capabilities, which are exceptional, also were enhanced by electronic traction control at all four wheels and permanent all-wheel drive.

On paved surfaces, the SE3 remains an agile machine, and once the engine revs are up, the vehicle tackles most conditions nicely. Starting from a stop or a slow roll, however, requires more foot-mashing on the accelerator. The 2.5-liter, 174-horsepower V-6 is a hard worker, but it's not a drag-racing engine.

Sport-utility vehicle drivers who like to be spoiled with rich-leather-and-burled-walnut interior surfaces and a silky smooth ride best look somewhere else. The front seats in the tested model were rugged, safari-type buckets that adjusted to positions manually. In the rear bench seat, passengers felt most every bump from a purpose-built stiff suspension that can handle off-road terrain.

Downers included a high step-in height for people under 6 feet tall, limited vision with the rearview mirror, some gearbox mushiness backing up with the automatic transmission that also allows for clutchless manual shifting and perhaps the most ill-advised cupholder placement going -- a double cupholder that unfolds from the middle-top of the dash. It does not hold drinks firmly, and it's easy to splash the windshield interior and the digital clock with even a modest braking maneuver.

Being a Land Rover, the SE3 must cost a fortune, right? Not even close, and that's the best part. The tested SE3 had a base price of $26,370 and went up only slightly with a $100 California emissions charge and $625 for delivery. That's a far cry from the $35,000 to $40,000 window sticker on a Land Rover Discovery and a veritable quantum leap fro m nearly $72,000 for a 2003 Land Rover Range Rover.

Keep in mind that the SE3 is a little sibling within its own family -- three doors (including the rear-loading door that swings open) rather than five doors on other Freelander versions.

Top-notch standard amenities on the tested SE3 included a 240-watt, eight-speaker harman/kardon audio system with compact disc player and AM/FM radio, 17-inch snow/mud radial tires, exterior mirrors with power and heat, a heated windshield, a power window in the rear cargo door and steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and cruise functions.

The perfect SE3 customer appears to be an active outdoor enthusiast who likes Land Rover quality and engineering but does not want to spend a fortune for an SUV. In other words, it's the kind of vehicle I would have crawled on broken glass to have when "baby boomer" could still be translated to young adult with active lifestyle.

Cross-country vacationers and SUV buyers who have reserved parking spaces at the country club will likely consider something more luxurious and expensive, and that's fine. The SE3 is a nice variation from the standard compact SUV fare and a true off-road transporter.

Funny looking? Well, tastes vary. And to be truthful, the SE3 grew on me the more time I spent with it.

Land Rover Freelander at a glance

Make/model: 2003 Land Rover Freelander SE3.

Vehicle type: Five-seat, two-door, four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle.

Base price: $26,370 (as tested, $27,095).

EPA fuel economy: 17 miles per gallon city; 20 mpg highway.

Transmission: Electronic five-speed automatic with clutchless manual shifting option and other special features.

Steering: Power rack and pinion.

Brakes: Power four-wheel discs with enhanced anti-lock, electronic brake distribution and hill-descent control.

Suspension type: Independent with MacPherson struts and coil springs front and rear.

Cargo volume: 19.3 cubic feet in rear storage area.

Fuel tank: 16.9 gallons.

Curb weight: 3,577 pounds.

Front track: 60.4 inches.

Rear track: 60.8 inches.

Height: 69.2 inches.

Length: 177.7 inches.

Wheelbase: 101 inches.

Width: 71.1 inches.

Ground clearance: 7.3 inches.

Tires: P225/55R17 radials.

Maximum towing capacity: 2,500 pounds.

Final assembly site: Solihull, England.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 3

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